I WROTE LAST WEEK of the need to show strong loyalty to the pope as the successor of St Peter and the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, the same loyalty as Catholics were bound to show to his predecessors. Loyalty to the pope is a distinguishing mark of Catholics in our society. One of the things this means, as we considered in the second of our Lent talks, is being aware of what the pope teaches; this last week, the fourth of Lent, has seen events all over Europe marking the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome and the triggering by Theresa May of Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, so it’s worth recalling the fullest exposition of our teaching about Europe by the Holy Father, in a speech he made last May when he was awarded the Charlemagne Prize. It is best to let the Holy Father speak for himself in these extracts (the whole address is here on www.vatican.va).

‘They [the founders of Europe] were prepared to pursue alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war. Not only did they boldly conceive the idea of Europe, but they dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction. …Today, in our own world, marked by so much conflict and suffering, there is a need to return to the same de facto solidarity and concrete generosity that followed the Second World War. The founding fathers were heralds of peace and prophets of the future. Today more than ever, their vision inspires us to build bridges and tear down walls………

The roots of our peoples, the roots of Europe, were consolidated down the centuries by the constant need to integrate in new syntheses the most varied and discrete cultures. The
identity of Europe is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity. Political activity cannot fail to see the urgency of this fundamental task. We know that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of the parts”, and this requires that we work to “broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all”. We are asked to promote an integration that finds in solidarity a way of acting, a means of making history…. ..If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue.

We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building “a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter” and in creating “a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society…I dream of a new European humanism…I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother, a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life…a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost every-thing and need shelter…a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless…a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being…a Europe where young people breathe the pure air of honesty, where they love the beauty of a culture and a simple life undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism, where getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to the lack of stable employment…..’